Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
Long-time AICN spy Psyclops took a look at Kurt Wimmer’s new ULTRAVIOLET, and here’s his take on things:
I went to a screening of ULTRAVIOLET last night at the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, CA. It was an early test screening so the cut we saw was really rough with many unfinished effects and temp score but I figured you'd like to hear about this one. It's a sci-fi action thriller from Kurt Wimmer, the director of EQUILIBRIUM, and it stars Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund and William Fichtner. There's some spoilers below so tread carefully.
The story takes place in the distant future during a civil war between humans and a powerful new species called Hemophages, more commonly referred to as "vampires" only quite different from the legendary monsters we've read about in books. These creatures are basically humans who have contracted a virus that results in heightened senses and abilities as well as an incredibly short life span of ten years from the point of infection. They have the teeth but they don't drink blood, constant transfusions are required to keep them alive and despite their strength, they can be killed just as easily as any normal human being. No garlic, no sunlight. Bullets do fine.
We discover through the opening narration that the Hemophages were feared because of how easily the virus could spread (any blood contact will immediately infect you) and that they were required to register with the government. Eventually, the vampires were forced into camps and terminated by their human oppressors, forcing the few who remained to go underground and start a rebellion. This is where we meet our main character, Violet (Milla Jovovich, looking insanely hotter than she's ever looked before), a young female vampire who is part of the rebellion. She goes undercover and infiltrates a heavily guarded laboratory where she steals a mysterious weapon developed by the humans to wipe out her race.
This weapon is actually a genetically engineered human child named "Six" (played by Cameron Bright) who unknowingly carries the key to destroying all of the vampires within his blood. The Hemophages want the child destroyed but Violet can't bring herself to do it, so she snatches the kid, goes on the run from her own people, as well as from the nasty humans who want their weapon back. This sets up a series of wild chase scenes followed by even more insane gun battles, which are followed by more of the same.
So what did I think of the movie?
It's a beautiful mess. This is one of those rare cinematic oddities where moments of pure genius and visual bliss are squandered by a lousy script and a convoluted story. Damn it, this could have been brilliant!
We'll start with the bad. The storyline is surprisingly weak despite some very interesting concepts introduced early on. The whole "vampires" angle doesn't really work since these people are more like superhumans than creatures of the night. They should have just stuck with calling them Hemophages and made them the byproduct of evolution instead of associating them with vampires. What's the use of having fangs if you don't bite anyone? The writing was also laughable. Most of the dialogue was painfully bad and took me right out of the movie. I was really surprised considering how well EQUILIBRIUM was structured. There's a scene at the beginning where these detectives show up to investigate a botched attack by the rebellion that is so poorly written and acted, I was ready to abandon all hope for the movie.
Then the action started.
This movie has some of the most insane, jaw-dropping action sequences ever put on film. Those of you who have seen EQUILIBRIUM will remember the fighting style of Gun-Kata, a unique hybrid of martial arts/dance moves involving firearms that you'd have to see to believe. Well, this movie features those same techniques only kicked up about ten notches. Everything is set in the far future so there's a lot of crazy technology on hand, like 'Levellers' that manipulate the pull of gravity, allowing vehicles and people to climb up buildings and have gunfights on the ceiling. There's a scene where Violet uses the Leveller to race her motorcycle up and around the side of a building while she's being chased by gun ships. They also have something called 'Inter-Dimensional' technology which allows things to be contained within invisible space. Sounds weird? Violet has dozens of weapons and ammunition stored away that physically materialize from these metal bracelets on her wrists. It's bizarre and probably something that you'd have to see for yourself in order to fully comprehend it's coolness.
Speaking of cool, this movie is heavily stylized. Where EQUILIBRIUM was grim and cold, this movie is off-beat and colorful, a cross between the lush visual style of Luc Besson's THE FIFTH ELEMENT with the hard hitting action of THE MATRIX. Violet's look is definitely not what I was expecting. She's decked out in midriffs, black spandex and leather jackets with a pageboy haircut that changes color like a chameleon along with the rest of her outfit. In one scene, she's wearing all white and looks down at the blood dripping from her wounded hand. She clenches her fist so that that blood starts oozing out and her entire outfit changes to dark red, almost as if the fabric was absorbing the blood. It's pretty damn cool.
Anyway, I could ramble on and on about some of the amazing stuff this movie has but it's not enough for me to wholeheartedly recommend it. If it wasn't for the mind-blowing visuals, this would be a stinker all the way. The concept is unique but the overall story is convoluted and silly. We see flashbacks of Milla and the main villain, Daxus (played with much relish by the hammy Nick Chinlund), and both characters in the past are played by different actors. Why did the director choose to do this? Was it to demonstrate how the virus physically alters your appearance over the course of ten years? That's a pretty drastic change when you consider that the villain in the flashback appears to be of a different build and hair color than the villain of the present.
There's also a ridiculous subplot involving Violet's Eurotrash vampire boyfriend who spends most of his time barking out orders to his Hemophage henchmen. That stuff just brings the movie down, especially since none of those characters have any real personality to draw us in (these are the guys she's fighting for?). Violet is an interesting character but there isn't enough to really invest in, especially between her and Six. If this film had a stronger foundation, meaning a better script and a much better supporting cast, it would have been fantastic. They should have allowed Violet to develop a much stronger maternal connection to the boy instead of half-assing it and using the kid as a plot device to lead us into another gun battle. Still, the movie is a visual treat and I would recommend checking it out just for that reason alone, but the things that do work are almost too good and feel like they should belong to a better movie.
Y’know, I thought Wimmer did a really strong job with almost no money on EQUILIBRIUM, and I’ve spoken with him about his theories about action scenes. I’m going to go into this one, fingers crossed, and hope for something crazy cool. Thanks for the report, Psyclops.